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Friday, August 20, 2010


An Appreciation from Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE MBE MBS DVMS, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust,

“It was with a sense of disbelief and immense shock that I learnt of the death of Fiona Fritz (nee Coyne), who was such a vibrant and wonderful friend, far too young to die. When Fiona and Willie were in Kenya, and I had been thrown by a wild elephant, and suffered a seriously smashed leg which anchored me to my bed for months, Fiona was my right arm, my help-mate and my confidante. She was passionate about all animals, adored all the orphaned elephants and rhinos in our care, and stepped into my role with extreme competence. Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Whatever appointments were in my Diary that I was now unable to fulfill, Fiona undertook proficiently – lectures, interviews, correspondence and endless errands. Every moment spent in her company was healing and happy for she had such a sense of fun.

When she and Willie returned to South Africa, I missed them both sorely. Since then Fiona has always kept in touch regularly, her letters full of amusing anecdotes about her new life in South Africa and her Weakest Link slot, which, by all accounts, she filled with her usual panache, despite (according to her letters) having accepted that assignment with initial misgiving. But, whatever Fiona undertook, she did well and with dedication and passion. I simply cannot believe that she has gone, but she will always live on in the hearts of many people who were privileged to have known her in life. My heartfelt condolence and prayers go out to Willie, and all her family and friends, who will miss her sorely as will I.

It was Gandhi that said, “You can judge a Nation by how it treats its animals” and that is so true of people as well. Fiona’s beloved dogs and all animals were treated with compassion, understanding, an outpouring of sincere love, and endless kindness. Animals and her husband, Willie Fritz, were her life, and her effervescent personality impacted and uplifted all around her. Her untimely demise is a very real and sad loss for all who knew her gentle nature personally as well as millions of others who glimpsed that indomitable spirit through her Weakest Link Programme.

Rest in Peace dearest Fiona, and may you be at peace and rewarded for a life that gave so much to so many, be they two legged, or four.” – Daphne Sheldrick

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s address is Box 15555, Nairobi, Kenya.

A Requiem Mass will be held for Fiona Coyne on August 24 at 12h30. The mass will take place at St. Peter’s Catholic Church (corner VD Merwe Street and Gordon’s Bay Road), Strand, Western Cape. Understandably, no media (cameras - tv or photographic) will be permitted inside the church. The media is kindly requested to remain outside the church during the ceremony. For anyone wishing to make a donation, the family have suggested either Christel House or Helderberg Animal Welfare Society.